News from Around the Net: 17-JUN-2011

Wow. After going back to work mid-week this week, Friday came even more suddenly than usual! Is anybody else shocked, surprised, and relieved that we got here so quickly?

Anyway… Though I may have been idle on vacation last week, the RPG blog community didn’t slow down at all, which means we have tons of great content again to share this week!

Characters

  • What inspires our best characters? If it’s real life where you find your inspiration, I suggest you pop over to Dungeon’s Master for this month’s blog carnival: Memorable Characters Inspired From Real Life.
  • Or maybe you’re looking for some inspiration from other great characters? Head on over to DriveThruRPG to help vote on the final entries in the “Tell Us About Your Character” contest!
  • Do you need an odd picture to inspire you? Look no further than 13 Strangest People on the Subway. I particularly love the first picture with the “Swamp Thing” on the seat…

GMs, Monsters and Mechanics

  • Do you ever feel like your combats are uninspired? I seem to recall feeling like Daffy Duck in “Robin Hood Daffy” (1958) occasionally… “[using his quarterstaff] Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn!
    Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!” (IMDB). Well, ZZARCHOV has some suggestions on how to spice things up in “Swinging from a chandelier and kicking someone into the fireplace.” Personally I think a few of my past players would be shocked if a villain started [gasp] playing dirty…
  • Combining genres in RPGs was May’s RPG Blog Carnival topic, but somehow I missed this article from The RPG Guy about 4 Tips to Combine Genres. Steampunk + Light Sabers + Cowboys? Total win! Great tips on making cross-genre stories actually work. I love the encouragement to roll your own if things don’t quite fit your ideas!
  • Mermaids. Do you think of Ariel from The Little Mermaid or the hungry ladies in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean? Why not use the latter to scare the swim trunks off your sailing PCs from time to time? Rob Conley over at Bat in the Attic does a great job of capturing Mermaid stats for your games.
  • Planned spontaneity. An oxymoron? Not really. When GMing – being able to improvise is often one of your best skills! Patrick Benson at Gnome Stew offers some great tips on GM improv. The trick it seems is to keep the game going by reacting to the players’ input and letting them start the story. I’ve ended up in some bizarre, but amazing gaming situations when I’ve let players take the reigns at times!
  • Every GM has a toolkit at their disposal, even if it’s just the base books for the game they’re running. But by adding a few more tools to the box, the experience can be made easier in some respects and improve things you might not think about otherwise. Campaign Mastery has started a new series called the “GM’s Toolbox” by Michael Beck that explores these tools in depth and should be one of the “must read” series for GMs old and new. Everybody has to clean out their toolbox now and then, right?
  • Do you ever get bored when you give PCs XP for gold, magic items, or anything else? Why not spice it up a bit with some interesting non-monetary or item-related rewards? Marshall Smith at Division Nihil offers 25 Ways to Reward PCs and there are some doozies. Why not inspire someone to become a PC’s student and understudy? Or offer membership in some mysterious club? Or even just give them a title or some land to manage? Nothing works better to either inspire players to stick around (or run off) than by raising the stakes!
  • Have you ever wondered how to speed up a game? With convention time limits, John Arcadian definitely has. And in “Johnny’s Five – Five Simple Ways to Speed up a Game” at Gnome Stew, he offers 5 concrete tips on how to do just that. I really like the simplicity of these suggestions – from playing “the high or low game” to decide whether something will work or not if it’s unclear to using tokens for puzzles and really using index cards wisely. Great advice.

World Building and Inspiration

  • Deities & Demigods

    Image via Wikipedia

    When I first started playing D&D in the early 1980s, I fondly remember paging through Deities and Demigods on a regular basis for inspiration. There was something about having all those gods and demigods in one tome that made them immediately accessible. Thanks to that book, I developed a love for mythology that stays strong even today. So when I saw the article on Dungeons N Dragons about “Demigods and Deities,” I was hooked before I started reading. If you’re looking at potentially creating your own faiths for your games, this is a great place to start your journey.

  • Or maybe you need a frog god in your campaign… Trey at From The Sorcerer’s Skull has a frog god based on a garden statue! I love inspiration in weird places.
  • Do you remember your first attempts at GMing? How it was all about the preparation and then you jump in and have to fly by the seat of your pants because players are unpredictable beasts? Well, Paul Millen over at Gaming Daily posted a detailed article about his first GMing experience with Warhammer 40,000 Deathwatch. He definitely had his hands full with character creation of a full Kill Team!
  • Though Darin Bradley’s article about how he got into D&D doesn’t really fit cleanly into any of my categories this week, I have to include it. For a long time, the stigma about gamers made us out to be demon-worshiping hoodlums intent on corrupting the world… But we all know that’s a load of hooey. Anybody remember the Tom Hanks movie Mazes and Monsters? I’d forgotten about it until Darin’s post brought it up. Thankfully like Darin my parents and grandparents, though religious, were tolerant of things that made you think and explore. Definite food for thought today.
  • If you’re running a campaign set in the modern (or post-modern) world, this should set your paranoia meters buzzing and crime solving radar on high alert. Using nanotech, they’ve managed to detect old fingerprints long after the moisture has dried. Amazing.
  • Who doesn’t like to see the occasional artifact from Atlantis? Well, check out this great picture at Propnomicon from Fedora Smith. I love Propnomicon – it offers some amazing inspiration for the odd magic item or artifact!
  • Over at Some Space to Think, Rob Donoghue has taken a brilliant approach to using simple plots to your advantage in “Underpants Adventures“. Think Star Wars vs. Attack of the Clones. By using the KISS principle, you don’t limit yourself but instead open things up for you and your players to explore related stories and themes. Gotta love that!
  • Also in the “hard to categorize” category is Monte Cook’s article “Writing Spaces.” I’m always in awe of people who can write anywhere, but think he’s right in that different environments influence writing in different ways. I often write on the sidelines of soccer or softball fields while my daughters are playing, but it rarely amounts to much because I’m so distracted. :)
  • Have you ever considered the potentials of henotheism or kathenotheism in your campaigns? Me neither. I’d never even seen the terms before reading Sean Holland’s article “Henotheism, Kathenotheism, and Polytheism” at the Sea of Stars. Quite interesting food for thought when designing your own pantheons and religions!
  • Many of us as gamers are also big readers of fantasy and science fiction… If you’ve seen any book covers over the years, you’ve probably seen the art of Michael Whelan… Scott
    Taylor over at Black Gate has a great interview with Whelan
    as well as several of his most iconic images over the years. Beautiful art that may inspire you…

Publisher News, Interviews and Reviews

  • Raging Swan Press has released Henchfolk & Hirelings as a new player’s resource supplement for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. I look forward to taking a look at this as a companion to their excellent Villains and Villains II books. Check it out at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow today! (And if you pick up a Raging Swan book in print form through Amazon, you might be able to get a Free PDF of your choice!)
  • I’ve not seen this series before, but based on the interview with Jason Thompson, author of King of RPGs and King of RPGs 2, I’ve just ordered my copies via Amazon. Gaming-based Manga for the win!
  • The Serenity Roleplaying Game book has been sitting on my shelf for quite a long time simply because I love the Firefly/Serenity universe from Joss Whedon and his talented crew of writers and actors. It’s been out for a while, but I like seeing detailed reviews of such games because it a) reminds me I have them and b) spurs me into getting it down and reading it again. Check out the review at Journey of the Phoenix. I look forward to checking out any and all future installments…
  • More recently released is The Complete Advanced Feats from Sigfried Trent and Open Design. I’ve enjoyed the books leading up to this one, so Satyre’s positive review at Fame & Fortune wasn’t a surprise, but reinforced the utility of collecting these feats for GMs and players alike. You can also find a good review of the book at RPG Resource.
  • Wicked North Games, the publisher behind Azamar, has posted their current lineup for 2011. Looks like they have a great mix of genres in store for us – fantasy, steampunk, black-ops, and sci-fi. If Azamar is any indication, I’m looking forward to all of these new settings!
  • Along the same lines, LPJ Design has announced that they’re going to release one product a week from August 2011 through July 2012 and they hope to be picked up by Cubicle 7 as their publishing partner. That’s an amazing amount of work in a short amount of time. Best of luck in the endeavor and I look forward to seeing the product lineup!
  • Free RPG Day 2011 is almost upon us! Even MTV has gotten into the act, with Matt Morgan offering a list of some of the great giveaways in store!
  • Frightful Hobgoblin has released an English translation of Nicolas Dessaux’s Epées & Sorcellerie roleplaying game inspired by the original D&D and Chainmail. I will definitely have to check this out!
  • Meanwhile over at Berin Kinsman’s Dire Blog, Berin offers some remarks on The Lost City by Logan Bonner from Open Design. Here’s yet another book I’m going to have to get a look at at some point! I’m a fan of pseudo-Egyptian influences, so this sounds right up my alley.
  • Creative Commons. I’m not a lawyer, but it’s always offered a bit of mystery for me as a potential publisher/writer. Can you make money as a publisher offering your work under a CC license? Ben at Troll in the Corner provides a definite “Yes” in his article “To Creative Commons or not to Creative Commons.” I’m not sure I understand CC any better now, but at least I know it’s possible to make money as a publisher!
  • Editors. They can be a bane for writers, but are a necessary evil that keeps us from spewing ad nauseum across the page with no clear purpose or end in sight. So why would it be any different when you have multiple authors working on a project? Simple answer: it’s not. Ryan Macklin offers his insights into coauthorship in “Co-Authors and Sharedthink.”

That’s it for this week. I hope everybody enjoys Free RPG Day at your local game stores and retailers and has a great weekend besides!

What did I miss? Do you have a link I should include? Drop me a line at the GKR Contact page and let me know!

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